Operations

  • Overview

    Operational considerations are an important component when transforming to a digital learning environment. The following sections provide education leaders with the information and resources they need to implement digital learning. The resources are intended to inspire conversation, evaluation and reflection around the current state of your educational ecosystem as well as support your planning and implementation in the digital age.
    • Budget
    • Procurement / RFP Management
    • Interoperability
    • Student Data Privacy
    • Devices
    • Technical Support
  • Budget

    To promote effective and efficient uses of digital tools and resources, spending should align with the district vision for digital learning. Strategic short- and long-term budgeting is essential as states, districts, and schools continue to make investments in bandwidth, networking, devices, and digital instructional materials to support effective digital learning. The National Education Technology Plan (NETP 2017) recommends that once a district establishes a vision for the use of technology, district and school leaders should examine existing budgets to identify areas in which spending can be reduced or eliminated to pay for learning technologies. As districts are often challenged financially when it comes to implementing technology initiatives and programs, they should also consider creative funding for the implementation of digital learning. Cost savings can take place when technology based tools and resources are not viewed as additional costs but as an opportunity to shift funding to support learning in the digital age.

    Resources

    Facilitator Guide

    budgetThe Facilitator Guide – Budget provides education leaders with the information and resources they need to conduct a professional learning session. Participants will:
    • Learn more about budgeting for digital learning
    • Collaborate with colleagues on key questions related to digital learning budgets
    • Acquire resources to support budget planning and considerations
    • Develop and maintain relationships with other district and state leaders
  • Procurement

    Widespread access to digital instructional materials is often dependent on successful navigation of the purchasing process. State procurement is often like the peeling of an onion—there are multiple layers to go through. In education, the buying and selling of merchandise and services, whether it is furniture, technology equipment, paper, broadband connectivity or instructional materials, typically requires following some level of state or local procurement laws. Some states have a procurement office specific to the department of education, whereas, other states may use statewide central purchasing as a standard. At the district level, some districts utilize cooperative purchasing through regional consortia and other districts may provide flexibility at the school level to make decisions regarding the acquisition of products and services. This is true for all purchases including instructional materials. Some states and districts might have policies for obtaining office furniture, but not for the acquisition of instructional resources. Other states may have policies for textbook adoption, but not for acquiring digital tools and resources or OER. States and districts can work to make the procurement process more transparent, and develop specific procedures to aid educators and the private sector in navigating the process. All stakeholders (public and private) should commit to developing relationships with a variety of decision-makers, recognizing that there are multiple interested parties with differing needs.

    Facilitator Guide

    ProcurementThe Facilitator Guide – Procurement provides education leaders with the information and resources they need to conduct a professional learning session. Participants will:
    1. Learn more about procurement and RFP management
    2. Identify procurement challenges and success stories
    3. Collaborate with colleagues and develop solutions for challenges
    4. Discuss how changes in state/local policies can improvement the procurement process
    5. Develop and maintain relationships with other district and state leaders
  • While states, districts, and schools have long collected certain education data for accountability purposes, there is growing interest in leveraging data from digital learning tools, online services, educational apps, and other technologies. However, with all the data available to us through technology, school leaders and educators still lack the ability to easily transform that data to information to help guide decisions about instruction, school administration, and operations. Further, the systems we use to collect, manage, analyze, and report on that data are often disconnected and don’t work well together.

    Key Questions

    Facilitator Guide

    interoperabilityThe Faciliator Guide – Interoperability provides education leaders with the information and resources they need to conduct a professional learning session. Participants will:
    • Understand interoperability needs
    • Review national interoperability standards and tools
    • Hear from exemplars on how to overcome challenges
    • Interact with your peers to learn what tools they use
    • Develop and maintain relationships with other district and state leaders
  • Student Data Privacy

    The National Education Technology Plan discusses how the use of student data iscrucial for personalized learning and continuous improvement (see Section 4: Assessment). Acting as the stewards of student data presents educators with several responsibilities. School officials, families, and software developers have to be mindful of how data privacy, confidentiality, and security practices affect students. Schools and other educational institutions should be certain that policies are in place regarding who has access to student data and that students and families understand their rights and responsibilities concerning data collection.  Districts should have a policy or procedure for reviewing third party agreements in the terms of service or contract for compliance around use, protection (data security) and destruction of student personally identifiable data. The U.S. Department of Education established the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) as a “one-stop” resource for education stakeholders to learn about data privacy, confidentiality, and security practices related to student-level longitudinal data systems and other uses of student data. Anyone can contact PTAC for information and updated guidance on privacy, confidentiality, and security practices through a variety of resources, including training materials and opportunities to receive direct assistance with privacy, security, and confidentiality of student data systems.

    Policies

    Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. New regulatory changes for FERPA became effective on January 3, 2012. Within the National Center for Education Statistics, the Department established a Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), which serves as a “one-stop resource” for the P-20 education community on privacy, confidentiality, and data security. Since its launch, the center has developed a PTAC Toolkit that provides resources on data sharing, security best practices, and other relevant topics. Among other things, the 2012 changes to FERPA expanded the requirements for written agreements and enforcement mechanisms to help ensure program effectiveness, promote effectiveness research, and increase accountability. In February 2014, additional guidance summarized the major requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) that relate to educational services, and urges schools and districts to go beyond compliance to follow best practices for outsourcing school functions using online educational services, including computer software, mobile applications and web-based tools.

    Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

    Congress enacted COPPA in 1998. Most recently, it was amended in December 2012 to take effect on July 1, 2013. The goal of COPPA is to put parents in charge of what information may be collected online about their children under the age of 13. The rule applies to operators of commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps). COPPA allows schools to act as “intermediaries” between website operators and parents in providing consent for the collection of personal information in the school context. For example, when a district contracts with a vendor for homework help, individualized education modules, online research and organizational tools, or web-based testing services, the vendor doesn’t have to obtain consent directly from the parent; the school is authorized to speak on behalf of the student. However, the Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center also advises schools to inform parents of its practices in their acceptable use policy. When student use of a web service extends beyond school activities, the center adds, the school “should carefully consider whether it has effectively notified parents of its intent to allow children to participate in such online activities.

    Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)

    Schools with E-Rate funding must enforce a policy of internet safety and certify that they are enforcing a policy of internet safety that includes measures to block or filter internet access for both minors and adults to certain visual depictions. CIPA requirements include maintaining an internet Safety Policy, a Technology Protection Measure and a public notice or hearing. A technology protection measure is a specific technology that blocks or filters internet access. The school or library must enforce the operation of the technology protection measure during the use of its computers with internet access, although an administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the authority with responsibility for administration of the school or library may disable the technology protection measure during use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose.

    Acceptable Use Policies

    Acceptable Use Policies

    Schools and districts typically implement acceptable use policies (AUP) for students, parents and faculty members that have access to school devices and/or the school- based software or broadband services to help ensure student safety and security and to help protect the school’s equipment and servers. AUPs vary based on school and district implementation programs, and should be customized based on the user groups. Each school or district should review current policies, templates and supporting documents related to device usage and management, broadband access and permissions and contact forms. These policies should be reviewed at least annually. Below, are sample documents that may help to manage user expectations by establishing policies for responsible device use. Examples:

    Resources

    Facilitator Guide

    The Faciliator Guide – Student Data Privacy provides education leaders with the information and resources they need to conduct a professional learning session. Participants will:
    • Learn more about data privacy
    • Collaborate with colleagues to learn the current status of privacy programs
    • Assess the strengths and challenges of your school’s privacy program
    • Explore ways to engage parents
    • Acquire resources supporting student data privacy
    • Develop and maintain relationships with other district and state leaders
  • Devices

    From the Field

    Macdonald_1201 “Decisions about student device selection should stem first from the academic learning goals and include considerations related to educator effectiveness, budget and technology support. It is not about the device, it is about how the device will support the learning.” – Alex Macdonald, Idaho Department of Education
    Choosing the correct device is critical to the success of a digital learning environment. As with any planning process, it is crucial to understand the baseline implementation before preparing effectively for the future, and this is especially true with comprehensive education planning that includes digital devices. During the planning process, districts typically look at the demographics, achievement and technology skills of the students and teachers, the teachers’ professional learning history and their general comfort with using technology to meet individual needs. Clearly defined district needs from the planning process can help to identify the best devices to access the content and applications required to meet program goals. A district may be focusing on a variety of needs ranging from increasing student achievement to decreasing discipline issues to shifting learning to a project-based approach and each of these areas may impact device-purchasing decisions. At the core of usage are the tools and content that help a district run efficiently and effectively and provide students and teachers with the resources necessary for learning. The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank, analyzed the software specifically used by small and medium school systems and found that the tools and content tend to fall into a few broad categories, all of which need to be addressed in planning and budgeting:
    • Business and school operations software provides the operational functionality needed by non-teaching staff for performing financial and human resources work; to stay on top of educator evaluations and professional development; and to handle library, cafeteria and teacher substitute management, among other activities.
    • Data management software is used by administrators, teachers and other staff to monitor student assessment, manage student information, and deliver reporting and analytics.
    • Information technology software is used by the IT organization to manage and maintain the network infrastructure, computers and mobile devices and help desk operations; provide communications within the schools and out to the wider world; and perform content filtering and other security responsibilities.
    • Academic software and digital content, used in the classroom by teachers and students, provides for productivity work such as word processing, offers learning management, and covers the wide spectrum of programs available for learning.
    In each one of these categories and sub-categories multiple software offerings are available—so much so that often choosing the most appropriate program is itself a major undertaking. However, the category of academic software and digital content is by far the largest, most varied and most important category for two reasons: This software is intended to help with learning in the classroom and there are literally thousands of choices of software and digital content available. Finally, two additional factors need to be considered throughout the selection and use of software in a school district: students’ safety and the privacy of student data. While polices related to these topics are covered in more detail in the Broadband section, it is important to be sure that software and content used by the students and staff of the district have appropriate safeguards for how students’ data is protected, and it is clear what data is collected from students by the software/content provider and who has access to the data and why they have access. Checking those policies and ensuring they are in line with the districts’ policies should be a key initial step in considering whether or not to select academic and non-academic software.

  • Device Considerations

    From the Field

    ME The State of Maine Department of Education’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) led a multi-state effort to undertake the procurement process for equipment and services to empower a wireless student-centered, digital learning environment. The multi-state effort was coordinated with participating National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) members on an as-requested basis, at various locations throughout the geographic regions of all participating NASPO members. Request for Proposals (RFP) #201210412 is for the purchase of the aforementioned goods and services. The site includes the pricing on winning proposals.
    Identifying the most appropriate new devices can be challenging, but it is a critical element of the technology planning process. There are multiple options available including tablets, laptops, cloud based devices, eReaders and smartphones. Because technology is continually evolving, it is important for leaders to keep abreast of the field. Key considerations leaders should consider include:
    • Aligning the learning goals from the school’s strategic or school improvement plan to the device implementation plan.
    • Assessing the professional learning needs for teachers and students both for hardware training and implementation for digital learning instruction.
    • Analyzing the impact of the various device options and the number of planned devices on the networks, broadband and Wi-Fi systems.
    • Comparing the direct device costs but also costs for any new software and the cost for tech support plan options.
    • Verifying the compatibility of new devices with current devices and other technologies such as projectors, printers and interactive whiteboards. Compatibility issues potentially can require additional new purchases and training.
    • Gauging the capacity of the tech support staff based on the device options and any requirements related to the implementation of new tech support systems.

    Relationships with Device Suppliers

    The most basic component of the relationship with a vendor starts with a Request for Proposal (RFP). RFPs will vary widely depending upon the laws and rules in different states, local policies and practices and specific goods and services districts are requesting. RFP Options: Schools and districts should research state device RFPs and/or other district RFPs as options prior to developing their own RFPs. For example, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative developed a multi-state RFP. Relationships with technology vendors can be especially important, depending upon the extent of the agreement of purchase. Successful districts consider which vendor will most likely be a partner for the long term and they share the long-term academic plan in order to have the vendor buy into the district’s shared, long-term vision. Most device providers offer a variety of resources including professional development offerings, online resources and communities in addition to various options for tech support. Many of these offerings may fit with the district’s overall vision and plan. One RFP that is somewhat unique, but contains the key elements of a well thought out RFP is that from the Multi State Learning Technology Initiative in the feature box Best Practices from Maine.

    Students with Special Needs and ELL Students

    In addition to the many ways that technology can support traditional students, states, districts and schools should consider the needs of students with disabilities and English Language Learners when purchasing devices. There may not be a “one size fits all” solution for the entire school or district. Resources and materials should be accessible for all students, which may mean alternative purchases of adaptive technologies for students as needed. In addition, there may be additional purchases for students with disabilities to help students gain access to resources not otherwise available to them.

    Resources

     
  • From the Field

    hidoe-logo The Hawaii State Department of Education’s (HIDOE) Access Learning pilot project focuses on providing schools with support and resources to use technology as a tool to transform teaching and learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Schools applied and were selected based on their network capacity, readiness to implement large scale school-wide change, ability to participate in professional development, identification of a school level project team, sufficient on-site technology coordinator support, and capacity to participate in the project evaluation. Schools received one device per student and teacher, and a spare pool of equipment equivalent to six percent of their total device count.
    Schools and districts vary in their approach to deployment of devices depending on budget considerations and needs assessments., but most schools organize a small pilot program prior to launching a large-scale deployment to learn about all phases of the process, including training and professional learning needs, network capacity and student response. Some districts choose to distribute devices grade-by-grade or content area and others distribute devices to the entire school. The advantage of a focused approach is having the ability to build staff capacity, track any roadblocks and shift implementation plans as needed. With lessons learned, grade levels, content areas or schools can be added on a rolling basis.

    BYOD Considerations

    Traditionally, school districts have been responsible for providing instructional materials for students and teachers, and thus have owned digital devices either through outright purchase or through a lease/lease purchase arrangement. As technology has become more pervasive in the home and more students have their own devices, some schools have begun allowing students to bring personal technology devices to school for educational purposes under the direction of teachers and administrators. Such programs are called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). Typically these programs do provide district-owned devices to students who do not have access to a personal device. While BYOD can ease budget pressures by relying to some degree on not having to purchase technology for every student, each school will still need to plan to purchase devices for the students who cannot afford them. In addition, BYOD programs with various devices from home can raise concerns regarding network security and classroom management of a variety of devices with different operating systems. Tech support can also become more complicated. If a student-owned device has technical problems, the tech support staff may not have the necessary background knowledge of the device and operating system to easily solve the problem. Policies for tech support should clearly spell out whether or not the district will support student-owned devices. Some districts define what types of devices they will support, and parents rely on those policies to inform purchasing decisions for their children. Another consideration in any such program is whether or not students will be allowed to take home school-issued devices. Student age, academic needs and school budgets may each be part of the decision making process. If student-owned devices are used in a school, consideration must be provided for at-home access for students using school-issued devices. A high priority in decision-making is having clear policies and procedures around technical support, especially if it will be provided after school hours. Once the decision is announced, schools need to share the details regarding the device access and all guiding policies with all stakeholders.
  • Key Elements

    Rapid changes in the ways technology is used for learning require an approach to technology support that reduces downtime and provides a fast, consistent, reliable experience for administrators, educators and students. The most effective tech support models are constructed directly from a high quality technology planning process that integrates technology with other school-wide support goals.
    Successful districts have found it valuable to think broadly about the best overall approach to meet support needs comprehensively before establishing specific details that define what support will be provided to whom and by whom. While no two districts provide exactly the same combination of tech support products and services to their users, all have defined core elements comprising “tech support” that contribute to successfully meeting their local needs. The following questions have helped districts define, plan for, and implement the core components of tech support.

    Approaches

    Once the central components of tech support have been identified, districts can begin to define where tech support will be based, the ways that help tickets will flow through the service pathway, and how tech support will be staffed. Tech support typically begins with a help desk or service desk, but also can include service-level agreements with various providers, and both live and media-delivered face-to-face training and online support, school-based/school employees, student tech support teams, and tech support cooperatives. If there is a lot of demand, the “front line” may spend much of its time dispatching tickets to other people instead of trying to solve specific problems. If there is less demand and a highly skilled and knowledgeable person taking the first request, many of the requests may be able to be handled immediately. Regular monitoring of tech support implementation and impact can provide valuable insight about how teachers and students use technology, as well as barriers to use.

    Help Desk

    In House Support

    Service Level agreements

    Many schools and districts currently include some level of service plan with providers when completing their equipment purchasing contracts. Considerations related to level of support, costs and long-term sustainability should be reviewed when considering incorporating the service level agreements to equipment purchasing contracts.

    Tech Support  Cooperatives

    Key Questions

    • What are the goals of the tech support team? Are those goals, including priorities, defined and publicized for all users?
    • How will requests be initiated and what is the process for prioritization?
    • What are the business hours of tech support, and the policies for nights/weekends/summer?
    • How often will routine maintenance occur? How will you communicate this downtime to users?
    • How will you deploy tech support staff to different campuses?
    • What metrics and indicators for tech support success will the district use to help determine cost effectiveness and customer satisfaction with current and future setups?

    From the Field

    Kuna Middle School’s tier one support is provided by students. An initial cadre of students were trained and then they train other students to help provide technology support. Based on experiences at the local high school, educators have found this student support system to be effective in quickly addressing tech support issues and providing students the experience to support their peers.. Learn more.

    Resources

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